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Rolling on the River

July 18, 2013

There are few things as thrilling as rolling on the river – whitewater rapids crashing against your raft, pushing and shoving as you fight to control the force of the water by digging your paddle deep into the river. It was our first time on northern California’s Tuolumne river, a wild and scenic waterway that begins in Yosemite National Park and then surges through a canyon, forming 18 miles of class IV+ rapids.

The trip we took was organized by rafting outfitter OARS, and introduced us to three

days of not just exhilarating rapids, beautiful hikes and pristine swimming holes, but also to the joys of craft beer and cheese tasting (more on that later).

There were 19 guests in our group – a few families, some cycling buddies and one couple – along with three rafting guides and four additional boat people to take all that food, beer, camping equipment and a minimal amount of clothing down the river with us.

Days were spent rafting through rapids, with names like Hell’s Kitchen, Surf City and Steamboat. Eli, the guide on our boat and the lead guide on the trip, Read More→

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Travels to the Sunshine State

April 4, 2013

Two of the things I love most are travel, and time alone with each of my kids. A few years back, I wrote about the gift of those journeys and how much I, and they, gain from that time away together. (You can read that piece here.)

The latest was a four-day jaunt to Florida with my 12-year-old son, Simon. At home, Simon and I rarely get a chance to spend time alone. After school and on weekends, he’s typically doing homework, playing sports or video games with friends, or watching and talking sports with his father. Four days away alone would indeed force him to spend time with ME. And so we went.

For the firs two days, we hung out on the beach in southern Florida. We played kadima, and built a sand castle, complete with a moat, flags, and some shell accoutrements. We played tennis, went to the supermarket and watched a movie and some college basketball games (I had no choice during March madness). We ended the days in the hot tub, and together, plotted the next phase of our

trip.

The fun continued with two days in Orlando. Read More→

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A Focus on Women and Art in Florence

March 31, 2013

Elisabeth-Chaplin-213x300In honor of women’s history month (March), a new walking tour focusing on women’s role in art has just launched in Florence, Italy. And isn’t it about time?

A collaboration between Context Travel and the Advancing Women Artist Foundation (AWA), this small group tour – led by Dr. Sheila Barker, director of the Jane Fortune Research Program on Women Artists in the Age of the Medici at the Medici Archives Project – takes travelers on a three-hour walk through two museums within the Pitti complex.

Covering four centuries of art, this “walking seminar” explores the creative achievements of women in Florence – from artist to art patrons. Italian art is hugely male dominated, and this is a unique opportunity to delve into questions such as: “Were women artists discriminated against?” “Can their art be distinguished from that of their male peers?” and “Who were their main clients, men or women?”

The connection between history and future is made here as well, with part of the tour proceeds going towards the funding of upcoming restoration projects geared to salvaging the city’s art by women. For more information, contact Context Travel.

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Botswana Beauty: The Okavango Delta

January 31, 2013

IMG_0537-300x200Sunday evening television was pretty sacred when I was growing up in the late 1960s and ‘70s. Although Laugh-In held the top spot in my house, I’ll never forget the mesmerizing wildlife images of Mutual of Ohama’s Wild Kingdom. Fast forward several decades and there I was – in the wild kingdom – or more specifically, on safari in Botswana’s Okavango Delta.

A land-locked country in southern Africa, bordering Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, Botswana is home to the world’s largest inland delta – the Okavango. With the help of Discover Africa, an Ohio-based agency specializing in travel to Africa, our

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group spent five days on safari in two different camps: Little Vumbura and Chitabe.

Each morning, we were woken up at 5:00 am for a light breakfast before heading out on the first of each day’s two game drives. At Vumbura, our two guides, Rain and Sevara, taught us about life on the delta while guiding us on dry land, through watering holes, and in mokoros (wooden canoes) traversing the floodplains. Read More→

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Getting some Headspace In Flight

December 18, 2012

imagesAir travel can be stressful, boring, anxiety-producing. Once in flight, there’s no way to escape – the surrounding confines of a packed aircraft and its poorly circulated air, the tension that comes with making a connection, the inevitable lost baggage syndrome. Except, perhaps, in your mind. Enter Headspace Take10 for the air, a new meditation audio offering onboard Virgin Atlantic flights.

Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk, is the soothing voice and meditation guru behind Headspace, an audio guided meditation that one can listen to on any Ipod, Smartphone, etc. In their continued effort to bring meditation to the Unknownmasses, Puddicombe and his team devised the Headspace 10-minute guided meditation for the entire Virgin Atlantic fleet (they are also talking to Jet Blue about a similar partnership), which is hopefully helping a lot of airline passengers better deal with the stresses of modern air travel.

Recent research has been highlighting the positive effects of meditation, such as reduced anger and stress, added creativity, greater concentration and increased attention span. A recent article in Yale Scientific magazine writes, “Meditation does not only have emotional benefits. A growing body of evidence suggests that mindfulness training can help anxiety,

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